Gosford Park

So it’s 1932 in prissy England, in a resort called Gosford Park, where a rich noble of some sort is having some acquaintances over for the week-end. Old dry hags bitch, the men grump, meanwhile the servants (who nearly outnumber the guests) prance around. Cards are played, ducks are hunted. A popular British actor entertains others with his piano playing and crooning, while his American producer friend talks about doing research for a “Charlie Chan in London” project about a murder at night in a hotel, where everyone is a suspect. And then, in an oh so ironic twist, someone is murdered that very night, and everyone’s a suspect.

“Gosford Park” was directed by Robert Altman, who gave us classics like “Nashville” and “The Player” but also forgettable dreck like “Prêt à Porter” and last year’s “Dr. T and the Women”. Most critics proclaim his latest film to be his best in a decade or something, but I have to disagree. Maybe it’s just my own aching disinterest in snobbish British characters doing nothing but drinking tea and gossiping, even after the murder occurs. Or how frustrating I find the way Altman gathered this great cast but doesn’t give his actors interesting characters. Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Richard E. Grant… Those are interesting performers usually, but here they barely register, lost that they are in a cast too large and a vaporous storyline about murky family ties, maid diddling and class struggle. Most memorable are Emily Watson, mainly because she’s pretty and good enough to somehow liven up the film whenever she’s on screen, and Ryan Phillipe, doing a not very good Scottish brogue to amusing effect.

I can’t really write much about this unbelievably overrated film besides telling you it bored me so much that I wasn’t able to watch it straight through; it took me four attempts to get to the closing credits. What’s worse is that I hear the film is getting strong buzz, and that it might be a major Oscar contender. Damn! Not because people speak the Queen’s English, wear period clothes and sound intelligent and sophisticated does it make the film any less dull and pointless, alright?